Thursday, July 30, 2015

Five Little Monkeys

Board Book: Five Little Monkeys: A finger & toes nursery rhyme book. Natalie Marshall. Scholastic. 2015. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  Five Little monkeys jumping on the bed. One fell off and bumped his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said...No more moneys jumping on the bed!

Premise/plot: A board book adaptation of the classic nursery rhyme "Five Little Monkeys."

My thoughts: The pages are easy to turn, which is a good thing, always. The illustrations are nice enough, I suppose. The text itself isn't surprising or extra-wonderful. The book includes "helpful" illustrations for parents who are clueless on the motions of the song/rhyme. (Are they necessary?)

The traditional rhyme is fun. As is the song. Here's one of my favorite adaptations:


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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On My Honor

On My Honor. Marion Dane Bauer. 1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]



The good news is that the jacket copy of this book is so straight forward I would have known to avoid this one as a kid. (Sad books and I did not get along.)

What is the book about? Joel and Tony are close friends, perhaps even best, best friends. But Joel isn't honest with Tony. And Tony isn't honest with Joel. If either boy had been honest, then the book wouldn't exist essentially. The truth is, Joel doesn't want to go with Tony to Starved Rock state park to climb the bluffs. And Tony doesn't want to go swimming at the city pool with Joel. Joel's last hope is that his Dad will say no to the boys biking over to the state park. Is Joel honest with his Dad? Of course not! Don't be silly. His Dad thinks his son wants to go biking with his friend. And though he knows it may be beyond his child's ability to bike eight or nine miles each way, he says yes. Perhaps he wants his son to like him and think he's cool? Joel tries to hide his disappointment that his Dad failed him by setting up good boundaries, and reluctantly Joel sets off on a very long journey. (In the Dad's defense, Joel and Tony are not honest about what they're going to do once they get to the state park.)

At some point, perhaps halfway, perhaps not. The boys take a break on the bridge. Tony decides to change plans. Now Joel had promised his Dad that they wouldn't change plans, that they would go where they were supposed to go, and do what they were supposed to do, but, does Joel have the integrity, the "honor," to stand his ground? Of course not! Not in this book! Tony decides to go swimming in the river, the river that both boys had been warned was dangerous dozens and dozens of times. Tony talks his friend into going swimming in a dangerous river. Joel knew he was making a bad decision, a "wrong" decision, a breaking-all-rules, and going-against-my-parents-decision, but he goes along with Tony anyway. Into the water they go. But Tony has a big secret: he can't swim. And, as you can imagine, swimming in a dangerous river with strong currents and whirlpools is not the best idea if you can't swim. So Tony drowns.

What little regard I have for Joel is completely lost in the next half of this oh-so-short novel. (I was so thankful this one is short!!!) Is Joel honest with anyone after the accident? Does he tell the police? Does he tell Tony's mom? Does he tell his Dad? It's not that he doesn't tell anyone--he tells a stranger, someone near the scene that he gets to look for Tony in the river--but when this stranger wants to do the right thing, the only necessary thing, Joel makes promises he has no intention of keeping. The lying begins. He has no idea what happened to Tony. He left Tony on the road, on his way to the state park. Tony was alive and biking the last time he saw him. He has no idea why he isn't back home yet.

The truth does come out, of course, but not in a way that puts Joel in a good light, an honorable position. The book ends with Joel and his Dad having a heartfelt conversation. But that conversation didn't sit right with me. Joel wants assurance that there is a heaven and that his friend, Tony, is there. And his Dad tells him that no one can be sure that there even is a heaven. But if there is a heaven, then he's sure Tony is there. I'm not sure which annoys me more. The emphasis that "no one can be sure" there is a heaven, or, the assumption that anyone who dies automatically goes to heaven. I'm not suggesting that the book should end with a discussion that heaven is a real place and hell is a real place, and unless you're trusting in Christ as your Savior, you're destined for hell. That's an unlikely book ending for sure.

Who's responsible? Who's to be held accountable? Who's to blame? The book spends some time devoted to this, mostly through showing and not telling. (Though that last conversation with his Dad does bring this up.) The book certainly can bring a reaction out of the reader.

On My Honor was a Newbery Honor book in 1987.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Impartial Witness

An Impartial Witness. Charles Todd. 2010. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

An Impartial Witness is the second book in the Bess Crawford mystery series by Charles Todd. I love that the series is set during World War I; An Impartial Witness is set in 1917. Bess Crawford is a nurse, and, she's nursing wounded soldiers both abroad and at home. (Bess spends a good amount of time in this novel in France, very close to the front.)

The book opens with Bess arriving in London on leave for thirty-six hours. She's just spent time on a convoy with a wounded soldier--a pilot with severe burns. He keeps holding on because he loves his wife. Her photograph is something he always has close by. She would recognize his wife anywhere she's seen it so often the past few days. But she didn't really expect to see her--this wife--at the train station seeing another soldier off. The scene was VERY emotional, and quite inappropriate if she's the wife of another man. The scene haunts her.

And with good reason, it turns out! For she soon learns that this woman--this wife--is found murdered that evening. She tells what she saw at the train station--several hours before the crime. She describes the man--the soldier--with her. That might have been all...except that she can't stop thinking of the case, of the tragedy of it, and she keeps talking with Scotland Yard about what she learns...

A man is arrested. But is he guilty? She doesn't think so. She really, really doesn't think so. For could she be falling in love with him?! Michael Hart isn't capable of murdering the woman he was supposedly in love with for years, is he?

Can Bess find the real murderer?!

I love, love, love this series. I love the characterization. I love the historical setting. I love the mystery itself. It's just a fabulous read.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What's On Your Nightstand (July)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. Jonathan Dodson. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Dodson writes of a culture and society that doesn't believe the gospel, a culture where the gospel is so strange and foreign that it is unbelievable. He encourages readers to rethink how they evangelize. And he does so in a way that does not compromise the truth and the exclusivity of the faith. He is honest in his assessment that people struggle with how to communicate the gospel and face challenges that seem impossible. I'm almost halfway through with this one--and so far I am liking it. It's a very thought-provoking read.

Wouldn't It Be Deadly: An Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery. D.E. Ireland. 2014. St. Martin's Press. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

The first in a new mystery series. I've been reading this one off-and-on for a few weeks now. I never seem to be motivated to read more than a chapter or two at a time. But it has potential. It is Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins after all. So I'll keep reading.

Murder on the Bride's Side (Elizabeth Parker #2). Tracy Kiely. 2010. St. Martin's Press. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I'll be reviewing the first book in the series soon. The heroine, Elizabeth Parker, is an Austen lover. She's attending the wedding of a best friend, and her best friend's family is quite dysfunctional. The wedding will be melodramatic--but will it prove deadly? I am liking but not loving this series. But it's a light read that is amusing enough.

Dissonance. Erica O'Rourke. 2014. Simon & Schuster. 512 pages. [Source: Review copy]

YA speculative fiction. The heroine "walks" between alternate/parallel universes. I'm enjoying it so far.

Bitter Truth. (Bess Crawford #3) 2012. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

I am loving this mystery series. Bess Crawford is a World War I nurse. The books have depth to them that many mysteries don't manage to have.

A Little In Love. Susan Fletcher. 2015. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Reading this because I am a big Les Miserables fan. This is a novelization of Eponine's story.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Book of Lost Tales, Part One

The Book of Lost Tales. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1983/1992. 345 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading The Book of Lost Tales, Part One? Yes and no. I'll try my best to explain why. First, The Book of Lost Tales traces Tolkien's writings about Middle Earth from the very beginnings. Many of these stories and poems (yes, poems) date from around the first World War. Tolkien sets up a framework for his fantasy stories. A man, Eriol, stumbles across The Cottage of Lost Play, and, meets a bunch of storytellers essentially. Tolkien's mythology is at its earliest and in some ways its weakest. It was interesting to read these early pieces, in a way, to see the origins of what would become a great fantasy. And a handful of these stories can be seen--to a certain degree--in what would be published as The Silmarillion. I'll be honest though, I preferred the more-polished stories of The Silmarillion. One does learn that Tolkien kept working and working and working and working on some of these stories. That this mythology was always a work in progress. From the first version of the story to the latest version of the story, they'd be BIG changes. Other stories he edited or rewrote perhaps only two or three times, and then almost sort of forgot about. Some stories he never finished at all. I believe there is at least one unfinished story in The Book of Lost Tales. Since I've started reading the introduction to the Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, I might be slightly confused. But. Generally speaking, what readers are being "treated" to is fragments, captured moments of his early writings.

In addition to reading Tolkien's own work, one also is privileged to read Christopher Tolkien's commentaries on the stories included. At first I had my doubts that commentaries would be interesting. But I can say that without the commentaries, the stories themselves wouldn't make much cohesive sense. So I was quickly proven wrong!

But as interesting as I found it. (And I didn't mind the poetry, by the way) I can't say that I "loved" it or found it wonderful or thrilling. I'm undecided on if I'll continue on with Book of Lost Tales Part Two.  

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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